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  • DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 1st, 2013

    Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

    Table of Contents:
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    THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

    1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
    2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
    3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

    4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

    THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

    5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
    6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
    7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”
    8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
    9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

    … and finally…

    10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

    PLUS bonus follow-up:
    11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.

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    By ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
    Freely Forwardable

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    THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

    1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.

    It was only a matter of time. Debito.org has reported on anti-NJ demonstrations in the past (start here). And after the Takeshima/Dokdo Islands dispute, public displays of xenophobic hatred by Japan’s strengthening Right Wing has been increasingly directed towards Zainichi Koreans in their Tokyo neighborhoods (see here).

    Now comes the next step: Public demonstrations advocating violence and death, marching through an ethnic Korean neighborhood in Tokyo for maximum effect and impact. They are happening. Check out these photos of demonstrator signs, taken February 9, 2013, courtesy of a human rights lawyer and used with permission. Here is a video of that demonstration, taken in Shin-Okubo along Meiji Doori and Ohkubo-Doori on February 9, 2013:

    COMMENT: “KOREANS: HANG YOURSELVES, DRINK POISON, LEAP TO YOUR DEATHS.” “GOOD OR BAD, KILL ALL KOREANS.” At this rate, it is only a matter of time before these threats of violence become real. Still holding out hope that “Japan is a peaceful, nonviolent society” and is therefore somehow exceptional? Heed this warning: People are people anywhere you go, and when encouraged in this way to resort to violence, eventually there will be blood. Time to wake up and recognize what is happening in Japan before it is too late.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11234

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    2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter

    The International Olympic Committee is currently in Japan considering Tokyo as a venue for the 2020 Summer Games. In light of recent events that point to clear examples of discrimination and advocacy of violence towards, for example, Koreans (see below), human rights groups in Japan are advocating that the IOC understand that these actions violate the Olympic Charter and choose their venue accordingly. Articles, photos, and letters follow from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren), Tanaka Hiroshi in the Mainichi Shinbun, and sources demonstrating that, for example, all GOJ educational subsidies for Korean ethnic schools have been eliminated as of 2013 from government budgets.

    Academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki might agree with the assessment of rising discrimination, as she documents on academic website Japan Focus the protection of xenophobic Rightists and the police harassment of their liberal opponents. Her conclusion: “But there is no rule of law if the instigators of violence are left to peddle hatred with impunity, while those who pursue historical justice and responsibility are subject to police harassment. There is no respect for human rights where those in power use cyber bullying in an attempt to silence their opponents. And democracy is left impoverished when freedom of hate speech is protected more zealously than freedom of reasoned political debate.” Have a look.

    SITYS. This is yet but another example of Japan’s clear and dangerous swing to the Right under PM Abe. And granting an Olympics to this regime despite all of this merely legitimize these tendencies, demonstrating that Japan will be held to a different standard regarding discrimination. Wake up, IOC.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11240

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    3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

    The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 9, No. 3, March 4, 2013.
    Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance
    By Arudou Debito
    ABSTRACT
    Japan’s swing to the right in the December 2012 Lower House election placed three-quarters of the seats in the hands of conservative parties. The result should come as no surprise. This political movement not only capitalized on a putative external threat generated by recent international territorial disputes (with China/Taiwan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and with South Korea over Takeshima/Dokdo islands). It also rode a xenophobic wave during the 2000s, strengthened by fringe opposition to reformers seeking to give non-Japanese more rights in Japanese politics and society.

    This article traces the arc of that xenophobic trajectory by focusing on three significant events: The defeat in the mid-2000s of a national “Protection of Human Rights” bill (jinken yōgo hōan); Tottori Prefecture’s Human Rights Ordinance of 2005 that was passed on a local level and then rescinded; and the resounding defeat of proponents of local suffrage for non-citizens (gaikokujin sanseiken) between 2009-11. The article concludes that these developments have perpetuated the unconstitutional status quo of a nation with no laws against racial discrimination in Japan.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11273

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    4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

    Here are a couple of interesting cases that have fallen through the cracks recently, what with all the higher-level geopolitical flurry and consequent hate speech garnering so much attention. With not much to link them thematically except that these are complaints made into public disputes, let me combine them into one blog post and let them stand for themselves as bellwethers of the times.

    First up, we have a criminal complaint filed with the police for classroom bullying resulting in serious injury due to his Pakistani ethnicity. This is one of a long line of cases of ethnic bullying in Japan, once again with insufficient intervention by authorities, and we’re lucky this time it hasn’t resulted yet in PTSD or a suicide. Like it has in these cases here with an ethnic Chinese schoolgirl, with an Indian student in 2007, or a Filipina-Japanese student in 2010 (in the last case NHK neglected to mention ethnicity as an issue). Of course, even here the Mainichi declines to give the name of the school involved. Whatever happened to perennial promises of a “major bullying study” at the ministerial level a couple of years ago to prevent things like this? Or of grassroots NGO actions way back when?

    Next, here’s an article about a victim fighting back. We have a thirty-something city councilor (in another unnamed local government in Hyougo-Ken) who proposed (in writing) to a woman (now 28, who accepted), then broke it off as soon as he heard that she was a Japanese citizen with a Zainichi Korean grandfather (horrors — how that might damage his political career!, he said). So in October of last year (appearing in an article dated January 28, 2013), she sued him for 2.4 million yen. Stay tuned. Interesting to see if the outcome will indicate how, once again, naturalization still doesn’t make a former NJ a “real Japanese” in elite society’s eyes:

    And finally, courtesy of japanCRUSH last January, we have this interesting titbit: “Japanese defense minister Onodera Itsunori is the latest politician to enter the fray by calling former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio a ‘traitor’ on a television programme. Onodera’s remark came after Hatoyama commented to Chinese officials that the Senkaku Islands should be recognised as disputed territory, rather than Japanese territory, during his trip to China. Interestingly, Hatoyama caused further controversy this week when he apologised for the Nanjing massacre.”

    So this is what it’s coming to. Dissent from prominent Japanese (who, in Hatoyama’s case, are no longer even political representatives) who act on their conscience, deviate from the saber-rattling party line, and show any efforts at reconciliation in this era of regional brinkmanship get decried as “traitors”. Doesn’t seem like there is much space for tolerance of moderate or diverse views (or people) anymore.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11117

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    THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

    5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm

    Over the years I have gotten from many corners (particularly from people who have not researched things too deeply) how “jus sanguinis” (law of blood) requirements for Japanese citizenship are not all that far from the international norm, and how Japan’s Nationality Law (which requires blood ties to a Japanese citizen for conferral of Japanese nationality) is but one example of many in the community of nations that confer nationality/citizenship by blood.

    Well, I knew both from experience and in my gut that there was something wrong with that. I felt that Japan’s method of conferring nationality/citizenship was quite specially exclusive (for example, we’ve had half a million Zainichi former citizens of Empire excluded from full “Denizenship” (see below) in Japanese society for three Postwar generations now, and only a tiny number of people becoming naturalized Japanese citizens every year). This exclusion (which every nation does when deciding national membership, but…) has been done in ways unbecoming of a country with the reputation of being a legitimate, competent, advanced Western democracy — one Japan has had since its emergence as a “rich society” in the 1980s — and thus expected to take on a greater role in international cooperation (such as acceptance of refugees) by accepting international legal norms (such as signing and enforcing international treaties).

    Now I’ve found something in writing from someone who HAS researched things deeply, Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako at Keio, and she too finds that Japan’s policies towards the outside world are outside the international norm. Excerpts from one of her writings follows:

    Conclusion: It has never been policy in Japan, despite all the promises we heard in the “Kokusaika” 1980s about “getting in, making the effort to work hard in Japanese companies, learning the language and culture, and ultimately becoming Japanese like everyone else”, to let immigrants stay or make it easier for them to stay. So it’s not going to happen (no matter what recent flawed GOJ Cabinet opinion polls claim about the public’s “no longer rejecting” NJ), because of official government policy not to let people settle, and because policymakers don’t trust foreigners to ever be “Japanese”…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11260

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    6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles

    Asahi: A policy initiative designed to encourage highly skilled foreign professionals to come and stay in Japan is not working out as the Justice Ministry had envisioned. In fact, the point-based system has proved so unpopular that it is being reviewed only a year after it was introduced. [...] According to the Justice Ministry, less than 1,000 will likely be certified in the initial year, compared with 2,000 that officials had expected.

    COMMENT: We’ve talked about Japan’s “Points System” before on Debito.org, where I took a dim view of it as just another “revolving door” labor visa regime to bring people over, leech off their prime working lives, and then boot them back home without letting them settle and reap the rewards for contributing to Japanese society (cf. the “Trainees”, the “Nikkei Returnees”, and the “foreign caregivers“, all of whom I have written about for the Japan Times). Well, now, in yet another episode of SITYS (“See I Told You So”), Asahi reports the “Points System” is going through similar “revisions” as the visa scams above due to a dearth of applications. As I thought would happen — the PS’s qualifying hurdles are simply too high. Even if one assumes good faith in Japan’s policymakers (some of whom do see the slow-motion demographic disaster in progress due to crushing public debt unsupportable by a society that is shrinking and aging) who might want to treat “foreign laborers” as people, Japan’s bureaucrats are so paranoid about NJ somehow “abusing” the system that they make it practically impossible for anyone to ever “use” the system to their benefit. Again, the GOJ keep wanting “workers” and discover to their surprise later that they imported “people”, with livelihood needs beyond mere work hours converted into “the privilege of living in Japan”. These policy failures will keep happening again and again until NJ are treated as “people”, and given a fair chance by the GOJ at becoming “Japanese” (with transfers of political, economic, and social power — and that includes input at the policymaking stage too). But I still don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11300

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    7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”

    Making national news whenever statistics come out is how Japan deals with (i.e., mostly rejects) refugees. I was always curious about why refugee numbers have always been considered newsworthy (when there are many other significant NJ-related statistics that merit more fanfare but don’t, such as the number of “Newcomers” with Permanent Residency overtaking the “Oldcomer” Zainichis with Special Permanent Residency in 2007, representing a sea change in the composition of permanent immigrant NJs in Japan). But then I found something in an academic writing that put things in perspective: Acceptance of refugees are one bellwether of Japan’s acceptance of international norms, as part of its “greater role in international cooperation” and an attempt “to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy”. First the most recent news article, then the academic article to put it in perspective:

    Kyodo: In 2011, there were 21 foreigners recognized as refugees, but for 2012, the number fell to 18. Since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees.

    Kashiwazaki: Since the mid-1970s, Japan has come into prominence in the international arena as a major player in the world economy. Internationalization became a slogan for the new direction of the country, with demands from both within and abroad to open, to take a leadership role, and to assume international responsibility. For the Japanese government, successful economic development provided the opportunity to assume a greater role in international cooperation and to increase its legitimacy as a competent, advanced Western democracy. To do so would require accepting an emerging set of international legal norms, including those in the area of citizenship…

    The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 generated refugees from Indochina. In the same year, the G7 Summit meeting was established. As the only Asian country admitted to membership in the G7 Summit, Japan was obliged to take some steps to accommodate refugees… With the acceptance of refugees, the Japanese government was compelled to join relevant international conventions. Japan acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural, Rights in 1979, and then ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981.

    COMMENT: Japan basically only acceded to these international norms and agreements as a vanity project — a matter of “not looking like an outlier” in the international community. Not because policymakers had any good-faith interest in helping NJ or outsiders in need come to Japan and settle. That’s why we see honne hiccoughs from time to time (like the one in 2010 when a 78-year-old Zainichi granny was denied social welfare by Oita Prefectural Government — where a court ruled that “Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity”. So much for those international treaties guaranteeing equal treatment being respected by Japan’s judiciary!). We’ve also seen how Japan simply will not pass a law against racial discrimination (despite signing another international agreement, the UN CERD, in 1995) — and will in fact counteract anyone who does. So in this context, Kyodo’s reporting that “since Japan began its refugee recognition system in 1982, there have been 14,299 people who applied and 616 who were recognized as refugees,” should come as no surprise. The GOJ has no intention of keeping its international treaty promises. They are merely national self-esteem boosters, not real guidelines or goals.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11282

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    8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

    Asahi: Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth. Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.” The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    COMMENT: Debito.org has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig”, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners. For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997. More examples here. Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at. Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections. Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody? Again, deserves to be known about.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11308

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    9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

    As our last post talked about labor law issues (and the proposal to abridge Labor Standards in favor of greater “flexibility” to dismiss labor without reasons), here’s an important article that came out in the Japan Times last December that I was waiting to get to, discussing issues once again of employer power over employees: When is a person under the authority of his or her employer, deserving compensation as “work time”? Okunuki talks about important cases in a very enlightening article about just how grey “work hours” are, and underscoring how powerless Japanese employees are regarding all that overtime going unpaid — how many people take things to court or to labor unions to fight under this precedent, or are even aware of “kyakkan setsu vs. nibun setsu”?. And the proposal we discussed last blog entry is to give even more power to employers?

    JT: The Labor Standards Law sidesteps a proper definition, and labor law scholars fall into two camps over how a work hour should be defined. One subscribes to what is known as kyakkan-setsu, roughly translating as “objective theory.” This camp argues that work hours are the entire time during which the employee can objectively be considered to be under the authority of her or his employer.

    The nibun-setsu (two-part theory) camp, on the other hand, splits work hours into “core” and “peripheral” work hours, with the status of the latter gray area between strictly defined work hours and break time to be determined through agreement between the employer and employed.

    The gold standard in case law regarding work hours is the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki Shipyard case. The Supreme Court’s Petty Bench on March 9, 2000, rejected outright the nibun-setsu approach and backed the kyakkan-setsu interpretation. Let’s examine the case.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=10918

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    … and finally…

    10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

    JT JBC: Last November, a reader in Hokkaido named Stephanie sent me an article read in Japan’s elementary schools. Featured in a sixth-grader magazine called Chagurin (from “child agricultural green”) dated December 2012, it was titled “Children of America, the Poverty Superpower” (Hinkon Taikoku Amerika no Kodomotachi), offering a sprawling review of America’s social problems.

    Its seven pages in tabloid format (see debito.org/?p=10806) led with headlines such as: “Is it true that there are more and more people without homes?” “Is it true that if you get sick you can’t go to hospital?” and “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the fatter the children are?”

    Answers described how 1 out of 7 Americans live below the poverty line, how evicted homeless people live in tent cities found “in any town park,” how poverty correlates with child obesity due to cheap junk food, how bankruptcies are widespread due to the world’s highest medical costs (e.g., one tooth filling costs ¥150,000), how education is undermined by “the evils (heigai) of evaluating teachers only by test scores,” and so on.

    For greater impact, included were photos of a tent city, a fat lady — even a kid with rotten-looking picket-fence teeth. These images served to buttress spiraling daisy chains of logic: “As your teeth get worse, your bite becomes bad, your body condition gets worse and your school studies suffer. After that, you can’t pass a job interview and you become stuck in poverty.”

    The article’s concluding question: “What can we do so we don’t become like America?”…

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11245

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    PLUS bonus follow-up:
    11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.

    I’ve devoted a couple of blog entries (here and here) plus a Japan Times column to propagandizing journalist Tsutsumi Mika, who has had her “Poverty Superpower of America” book series adapted for Japanese grade-school audiences nationwide and a manga-reading Japanese public.

    I’ve already gone into detail elsewhere about the latent journalistic problems with her reportage (not the least the outright falsification of evidence), and the implicit ironies involved with her demonizing a foreign society as a cautionary tale to audiences without sufficient training in comparative cultural study and critical thinking.

    Now here’s another irony, sent to me by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Further inspection of Tsutsumi’s works reveals an odd attitude towards Jews. Consider this excerpt from her “Poverty Superpower of America” manga, courtesy of Amazon Japan: Here we have a Jew named “David Goldberg” from a financial agency selling bogus house loans to an immigrant Mexican family before the whole US derivatives crisis. Goldberg announces himself as “the ally of the weak” before destroying all of their hopes and dreams.

    I wonder what the Jewish anti-defamation leagues would make of Tsutsumi’s Jewish crook? The American Embassy (unlike the Japanese Embassy) is pretty lackadaisical about how the US is portrayed in Japan’s media. But I doubt, say, the Simon Wiesenthal Center would be.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=11252

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    That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading!

    ARUDOU, Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013 ENDS

    35 Responses to “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013”

    1. Imiguh Says:

      Debito-san,

      In addition to the point system and new immigration system, have you heard much from those going to immigration offices (especially in Tokyo)? A LARGE fraction of friends are running into a great deal of trouble ranging from outright incompetence, lack of knowledge of forms for immigration matters (IE extensions), unprofessional behavior, and exceptionally long wait times coupled with multiple trips for simple matters. It seems to have become absolutely horrible at these offices since the changes.

      -SalB

    2. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Imiguh #1

      I can vouch for that. As I will soon be leaving, but my old style ‘gaijin card’ was set to expire a few weeks before my leaving date, I went to my local immigration office. Here’s what happened;

      NB; The following conversation was conducted entirely in JAPANESE.

      At the Immigration Office….

      Me; Hello. I have a question about my gaijin card, if it’s no trouble, could I speak to someone please?

      Immigration Officer; I’m so sorry, I don’t speak English, only Japanese….

      Me; That’s ok, I can speak Japanese. So, I wanted to ask about…

      IO; NO ENGLISH, I SAID! This is Japan! Learn Japanese! Lazy foreigner.

      Me; Excuse me? What did you just say? I am speaking only Japanese!

      IO; Next! (sits down and folds arms).

      Me; I beg your pardon! You are so rude! While you are wearing that uniform, you are representing your country, and right now, you are an international embarrassment. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? If you can’t even stand to talk to foreigners, what are you doing working in immigration?
      (Deathly silence while all other staff stop working to stare at us)

      IO; (Stands up, goes to photocopier, copies 6 pages of immigration policy guidelines- in Japanese- and gives them wordlessly to me) Next!

      Me; Thank you. I am sure that with your sincere effort, this city can live up to it’s image as an ‘international city’.
      *END*

    3. Michael Says:

      I renewed my three year in July and had an extremely easy time of it. On the website it asked for a few documents. I provided one year of tax returns, my new registry and the one page application. I got to Shinagawa at 9 am and was out by 9:50.

      I called three weeks later as they hadn’t sent the post card and they asked for a local document which I didn’t have or necessarily have to have. Three days later I got the postcard and then went to Shinagawa. I waited an hour and picked up the new card. I was impressed at how well it went.

    4. Mike2 Says:

      @ Micheal,

      There is no more 3 year renewal. Everybody gets a 5 year card now. This is one positive step that immigration has taken, and to my understanding, even people with work visas get the new 5 year card. It is quite a dramatic change. There is a new immigration office, the one in Yokohama, Ichikawacho, has been moved I think. As for rude officers, yes there are many. Some are nice, some hate foreigners.

    5. Joe Says:

      @Jim

      Interesting story. As a keen student of Japanese, I’d be interested to know what words he used to call you a “lazy foreigner”. It sounded a bit odd to me when I read it, and neither my wife nor six co-workers (all Japanese) could come up with a natural-sounding expression which somebody might come out with spontaneously in this kind of situation. “Idiot foreigner”, okay, “lazy idiot”, okay, but “lazy foreigner”was unanimously agreed to sound completely unnatural, especially in regards to a lack of language ability. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

    6. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #5

      He said; ‘Gaijin namakemono…’ before he had run out of breath. He had exploded very loudly with the ‘No English, I said!’, and from there he didn’t stop to inhale.
      Granted, this could mean ‘all foreigners are lazy’, or that ‘you are a lazy foreigner’. Depends on how you read the context. But I think that he was just venting at me, and this was an out loud expression of what he was thinking, kind of hitorigoto, rather than something specifically addressed to me in expectation of a reply.

      Basically, from the moment he saw I was NJ, he had decided that he didn’t want to deal with me. Good job I’m not one of the *millions* of elite super-rich forieners that Japan aims to attract 2000 of per year. It’s no wonder they are failing to meet the quota.

      Also Joe, don’t you find it strange in the very slightest that all of the Japanese people you know claim that there is no ‘natural-sounding expression’ in the Japanese language for saying ‘lazy foreigner’? Seriously? Kind of reminds me of my freshman year as a Japanese Studies undergrad, when my Japanese Japanese teacher told the class ‘there are no swear words in Japanese’. That turned out to be a lie. Perhaps they think there is no ‘natural-sounding expression’ because they have never felt the need to verbalize the concept because they are not racist, or maybe they are just deeply embarrassed, and doing a little face-saving tatemae? Another exercise in ‘the victim must be wrong’, or ‘the victim must have misunderstood (perhaps he should study Japanese harder?)’, or even ‘this can’t be true, it must be an anti-Japanese lie’? The Japanese have a record for trying to dominate the social discourse and take away the victims right to a narrative.

    7. TJJ Says:

      @Jim – voice recorders! (even smartphones have them!)
      The more credible evidence we can bring to highlight acts like these, the better.

    8. Markus Says:

      @Joe (#5) I have to agree with Jim here that the default mode for many Japanese is to try to blame the foreigner for a supposed misunderstanding or even mean-spirited attempt to discredit a Japanese person.
      I think it is very easy to underestimate how deep the collective effort to keep Japan and Japanese culture look flawless to outsiders really runs. I feel that whenever I meet a new Japanese person, I am constantly taxed for my knowledge about Japan, and I have come to the conclusion that they are trying to assess how much bad things (under the ‘futa’) I have seen yet and what level of tatemae is okay to present me with.
      I believe this to be the reason why the Japanese friendliness and politeness decreases rapidly once they learn you are a long-timer as opposed to just a tourist. They know that a long-timer will have had plenty of opportunity to see under the lid and understand the ‘honne’ of this society, and therefore has become ‘dangerous’. There’s nothing to gain for Japan’s image in the world from them. With tourists, who are understandably impressed and ready to suspend disbelief when they come to Japan, they feel they can perpetuate the tatemae, white lies, and proper lies, that they might actually believe themselves.

      Personally, I made these exact experiences. Upon coming to Japan first, apart from being impressed with a lot of stuff, I immediately saw and was told stuff that I thought was “too good to be true”. My “BS detector” was beeping constantly. Yet, I was afraid (wrongly so, as I now know) that I shouldn’t apply orientalist views or act like a cultural imperialist, so I took the explanations I received from the Japanese I know at face value. Now, with a year and a half in this country, I know that I should have trusted my first instinct. When something’s too good to be true, it always is.

      TL;DR – the statement that there is ‘no natural sounding expression for lazy foreigner someone could spontaneously come up with’ is such an example. Pure tatemae.

    9. Michael Says:

      The five year visa is based on a points test and is not automatic. I didn’t have language ability and my income the year before was good but not enough to make enough points to get me over the top so I didn’t apply. Three year renewals are pretty much automatic.

    10. Mark in Yayoi Says:

      Michael, do you know how the points are assigned? I got the five-year visa when I renewed last year, and would be curious to see how exactly I qualified.

    11. john k Says:

      #8 markus

      Oh how true. My BS indicator upon my short time in the country was bleeping like the RoadRunner cartoon. Yet I ignored for the same reasons you also cite. Cost me 2 years of stress and losing a fortune in money to a crooked estate agent whom I eventually took to court to get my money back, which I won, but got nothing back as the judge said they “provided me with a service”, welcome to the “harmony” of Japan.

      Funny, I was at an airport in the Philippines last week, sat next to a Japanese guys, obviously waiting for the same flight. We started talking after he asked me a question where I replied in Japanese. Ah, you speak Japanese how/why etc. Anyway, after reverting to English later (he wanted to practice), I too had the usual quizzing of my Japanese “culture” and acceptance of everything. So we digressed (my change of tack) into the more ‘normal’ things. Surprise surprise, the do you like sushi question came despite my efforts to change tack…do you like meat and potatoes I replied, he looked at me quizzically! …he changed tack again..and we ventured in to the subject of weather. Where I noted why do Japanese moan in the winter…it’s cold, it’s cold..and all I hear and in the summer, it’s hot, it’s hot etc. Why not make proper houses. Since all the houses in Japan are crap and poor quality. Just build them properly and with real insulation.

      After that all conversation ended! It was clear I didn’t buy into the cool aid of Japan.

    12. Joe Says:

      Oh, FFS, Jim, get your facts right. “Gaijin namakemono”is a ridiculous, grammatically incorrect attempt to translate “lazy gaijin” by someone with a very sparse knowledge of Japanese. Was the immigration officer a foreigner? A four-year-old native speaker would laugh. You’re misremembering at best. If you can’t get that right, how can anybody believe the rest of what you’ve written?

      It might seem a small point,but I think that a site intended to fight intolerance shouldn’t be a vehicle for factually incorrect posts designed to portray Japanese folk (or anyone else) in a bad light.

      And I didn’t say that there’s no natural Japanese expression for “lazy foreigner”, I said that it wouldn’t be a natural, spontaneous expression in the situation described. And your “gaijin namakemono” translation does nothing to change my opinion.

    13. Arbitrary Says:

      I requested a 5-year, and got a 1-year.

      Did anything ever get clarified for the requirements of PR?

    14. Michael Says:

      There is a 3 page fill in the circle test I thought I saw for the five-year. In reply to Arbitrary, the first time you apply for a residency visa with a marriage or non-sponsored by a business requirement you are usually given a one year no matter how many years you ask for. As long as you don’t have a problem with the law in that first year, you can almost then automatically get a 3 year after that. I got a 3 yr after my one year and I gave them a US tax return when I asked for the 3 saying there wasn’t a complete tax year yet in Japan on the one year.

    15. Markus Says:

      @Joe (#11) Jim actually never said that the person was Japanese. You are jumping to conclusions, and your swearing kinda weakens your point. I also do not believe that you would have accepted his comment as fact if he had come with a ‘perfectly natural sounding’ expression for ‘lazy foreigner’ – am I assuming too much if I think that that’s just an attempt at misdirection. I could as well ask you to give us a transcript of the conversation you had with your wife, or with the six co-workers about Jim’s experience at Immigration – if you can’t come up with a natural sounding dialogue, we must assume you made it up to make Japanese people look good, right?

    16. Joe Says:

      @Jim
      Apologies. My post was over the top. I’d been watching a bunch of racist morons stomping around Tokyo threatening to kill Koreans on Youtube, and I was all riled up.
      What I wanted to suggest was that you must have misheard the immigration officer in question. He couldn’t have said “Gaijin namakemono,” it’s both ungrammatical (not that your average Joe cares much about grammar), and completely unnatural to put two nouns together like that in Japanese without a copula, even if you’re talking to yourself. Ask any native speaker.
      And it’s important to get these things straight, otherwise we’re just pouring petrol onto the racists’ (of whatever nationality) bonfires.

    17. Joe Says:

      @Markus
      The guy was an immigration officer in a Japanese immigration office. Are you seriously suggesting he was Hungarian?
      And you’re right that I don’t believe Jim’s story; I didn’t ask him for a transcript, just two words, which he wasn’t able to supply. He made a mistake in the heat of the moment, that’s all… we all do it.

    18. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #16

      Of course, apologies accepted, but you don’t have to apologize.
      I am glad that you took the time to post your opinion.
      Maybe we have seen the same video (I posted a link to debito.org earlier today), it’s sickening. You have hit on an interesting point that is informing many of the debates here and on other sites; to what extent is that type of ‘ugly’ nationalism normalized in Japan today? We may be on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to opinions on that one, but it’s ok.

      The Japanese language is interesting isn’t it? there are many ungrammatical constructions in everyday use, and the Japanese often drop all particles in spoken language. I took the immigration officer to mean ‘Gaijin wa namakemono desu’ before he folded his arms and sat down. As you say, regional and generational variations in usages are wide in Japan.

      You are right to question my story and any others posted here on debito.org, and seek other forms of verification. Trust and experience is important in forming an opinion.

      I think what myself and others (Markus, John) are seeing in your replies to me are all of the standard deflection tactics we have seen used by Japanese and/or apologists to counter allegations of mistreatment in the past. Debito has discussed these as part of a strategy to disenfranchise the victim from control over the narrative (with particular reference to the Japanese response to the BBC ‘QI’ Hiroshima comments).

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day, as they say, I am not infallible. I had some J-friends who were genuinely shocked by my story, and (with no sarcasm at all intended) I accept the possibility that the 6 colleagues and your wife are all honestly good people who have never had such a thought in their lives, and find verbalizing it to sound unnatural.

      After all, the idiot in the immigration office is not representative of 100% of Japanese people, just as the anti-Korean protesters in the youtube video are not.

    19. Fight Back Says:

      I don’t think what Jim went through was in any way unbelievable. I mean, I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences at the hands of Japanese authority figures. I know I have.

      Asking him to ‘prove’ what happened is too much akin to blaming the victim for me, I don’t think that’s the right mentality for this site.

    20. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #17

      Having just made the effort to apologize to you, I now see that you are lying!

      You say (post #17);
      ‘I didn’t ask him for a transcript, just two words, which he wasn’t able to supply.’

      I did supply (my post #6);
      ‘He said; ‘Gaijin namakemono…’ before he had run out of breath.’

      Which was in response to your your first response (#5) to my initial post (#2).

      I’m not going to respond to you anymore. Your posts display a tone that seems to swing wildly from being reasonable and polite, to being emotional and accusatory.

    21. Markus Says:

      @Joe (#17) I have been to immigration (Tokyo-Shinagawa) thrice, and was served by a Chinese officer on two of those three occasions. How do I know? His Japanese was not native level, his name plate had Katakana, and the person accompanying me there told me so. I learned that there are a quite a number of Chinese officers working there in case applicants from those two countries have language troubles and need help in their native tongue. Maybe Koreans, “Zainichi” or not, too? If you really think there are only Japanese working at J-Immigration, I think you simply can’t tell Japanese and Chinese apart.

      So, I think your knowledge of the immigration procedures is under-complex, to say the least. You *are* jumping to conclusions, so I think your big “proof”, i.e. that it is impossible someone working at immigration couldn’t possibly have said “Gaijin namakemono” is baseless.

      On a side note, I enjoyed having to deal with a Chinese officer – he was straightforward, to the point, and best of all (probably the giveaway that he wasn’t Japanese), he answered all my questions without ever going “hooooo” or having to go to back to get counseling by his kachou.

    22. Joe Says:

      @Jim (though you won’t be responding to this, so feel free not to read it)

      I’m glad you accused me of lying. Now the gloves are off I can be a little less circumspect with my post.
      First of all, I wasn’t lying when I said you were unable to supply a translation of “lazy gaijin”. Sure, you tried, but as I said, “Gaijin namakemono” is simply nonsense.

      I’m not going to say you’re a liar, but you’re certainly confused. A lawyer would tear your story to shreds in court. You made three separate statements:

      1)”IO; NO ENGLISH, I SAID! This is Japan! Learn Japanese! Lazy foreigner.”

      2)”Granted, this could mean ‘all foreigners are lazy’, or that ‘you are a lazy foreigner’. Depends on how you read the context.”

      3)” I took the immigration officer to mean ‘Gaijin wa namakemono desu’ before he folded his arms and sat down.”

      So which is it? Because they can’t all be true, as any neutral observer with a knowledge of Japanese would recognise after a moment’s thought.

      Horrible consequences arise out of people’s “stories” about other groups: Jews sacrifice Christian babies, Koreans poison wells, Muslims are all terrorists. It goes on and on.

      – Let’s draw this debate to a close soon.

    23. Joe Says:

      @ Markus

      Can’t understand your need to demonstrate that the officer wasn’t Japanese, but anyway:

      1) If he’d been Chinese, don’t you think Jim might have mentioned the fact? It would be pretty relevant, no?

      2) Why would a Chinese person claim to be able to speak only Japanese?

      3) Why would a Chinese person call a fellow foreigner a “gaijin”?

      4) Do you seriously think a person with a level of Japanese so poor that they (allegedly) say “Gaijin namakemono” as if it were normal would be employed in a Japanese government office?

      5) Why would a Chinese person mutter to himself in Japanese?

    24. GeorgeST Says:

      Markus no. 21
      Racist much?
      Just because of non-standard Japanese name and a accent, you assumed that those officers were Chinese? Shame on you. These bigotted thoughts of yours are exactly what Debito himself has to put up with from the apologist crowd. The staff could have easily been born Japanese or naturalized. And it is sad that you suggest that Japanese wouldn’t be the native tongue of zainichi residents. If you really think can judge Japanese or not based on appearance, name or language skills, I think you simply are a racist and your discriminatory attitude has no place on a activist site.

    25. Fight Back Says:

      @Joe

      I’m not really sure what you want to achieve. You’ve certainly accused lots of posters on here of lying or worse, often in very direct terms. I know Debito respects your opinion but you seem to be driving a wedge between yourself and some of the regular posters in here who rely on this site to communicate some of the difficulties and dire circumstances they find themselves in as a member of a minority often ignored by mainstream Japanese society. Why try to shut that discourse down?

    26. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Joe #23

      You are basing your belief that this is a lie on the fact that ‘gaijin namakemono’ is grammatically incorrect according to textbooks that teach students to use particles and ‘desu’. I’m beginning to think that you have only textbook knowledge of Japanese, that all the Japanese around you at work oblige you by speaking like text books themselves, and that you don’t have any real understanding of spoken Japanese between two native speakers. Your argument is based on an inflexible cursory knowledge of Japanese grammar; are you a classic case of ‘a little learning’?

      I’m not confused. You are a bare-faced liar (see my post #20).
      Your statement in post #22 is bizarre. Anyone with a knowledge of Japanese can see that without the particles the sentence was open to (some limited) interpretation (as I explained; both pejorative). I didn’t make 3 separate statements, I made one. That is that I supplied an English language account for people with limited Japanese ability (this seems to be you), and then provided the Japanese upon request (which you have alternately denied I provided, and held up as ‘proof’ that I am lying).

      Also, as for your post #23
      ‘If he’d been Chinese, don’t you think Jim might have mentioned the fact?’
      Why should I notice? Can you tell nationality now, just from looking? White=American? Black= African? WTF.

    27. DeBourca Says:

      Joe, Japanese speakers drop particles all the time, and when an official does it, it carries added layers of meaning, but as a student of Japanese, you know this, right? I have to say your argument (that Jim made up the story because the reported speech includes no particles) is nonsensical. Methinks you are a troll.

    28. Markus Says:

      @Joe (#23) You are – again – putting words in my mouth. Please show me where I said that the person who Jim referred to was Chinese? I never did, and your repeated attempts at misdirection won’t help your argument.
      What I was saying is that it is entirely possible that an officer at J-immigration is not capable of native level Japanese, which you seem to be ruling out (#12 – “Was the immigration officer a foreigner? A four-year-old native speaker would laugh.”)

      Even if you didn’t your claims are baseless. Like Jim, I must suspect your Japanese level is not good enough yet (I guess around Minna no Nihongo Book 2), or you are an impostor altogether and have never actually lived in Japan. Why? Because it is the most common thing imaginable for native Japanese speakers to drop the copula in colloquial contexts, as anyone who lives in this country is able to overhear, like what, thousands of times a day, if he wanted to. In fact, I never heard a Japanese person say “Aさんは怠け者です” The は is correct, but not spoken often.

      Your “logic” in #22 is simply not working. I would only work if we assume that all Japanese speak perfect, textbook Japanese, all the time, even when excited or angry, and that there is no such thing as colloquial Japanese.

      Of course you are free to doubt Jim’s story all you want, but your proof is just silly.

    29. giantpanda Says:

      By the way: “If he’d been Chinese, would he have referred to fellow foreigners as ‘gaijin’” Damn right he would have. All the Chinese I know (and they are legion) in Japan refer to whiteys as “gaijin” . I’ve even had the bizarre experience of walking in a touristy area with two Chinese friends and hearing one say to the other “gajin ga ooi ne!” Upon which I pointed out that they were gaijin 100% – and they said ‘gaijin” did not apply to them, only to caucasians. They were not “gaijin” they were “Chinese”. Shades of Japanese people not counting themselves as Asians methinks!!

    30. Karjh12 Says:

      Throughout all this linguistic debate I ultimately agree with Jim .

      Language both spoken and written is not a fixed textbook pattern .It accommodates itself
      to local needs, and even corporate and bureaucratic cultures lead to individual expression,
      the process of which is unlikely to follow the prescribed patterns

      There is a linguistic continuum starting with the standard language and going on to local and
      individual varieties (or maybe the other way around)

      So it doesn’t matter if the odd “wa,ga,o,desu/da” is left out.

      What really matters is the situational face to face contact that determines the meaning…
      not going back to the textbook,dictionary or even asking friends .

    31. Mike2 Says:

      @markus,

      Immigration officers are usually Japanese nationals. I think I once saw one that was mixed race, but I dont think they would allow a Chinese person to work there. You occasionally see Chinese working at hello work, only as interpreters or assistants. What Jim experienced is nothing supprising to me; I overheard a police officer asking another officer when I approached the desk as why gaijin live in Japan.

    32. sendaiben Says:

      A few thoughts on this :)

      1. I’ve never had anyone be as rude to me as that and would make quite a big fuss if they were
      2. I had the misfortune of dealing with the immigration office in Kanazawa once (they are a branch of the Osaka office) and they were awful: stupid, rude, obstructive. Guess I’m lucky to live in Sendai
      3. The immigration office here has two tiers of workers: the officers, who I find to be ordinary, fairly decent bureaucrats, and the part-time information staff, who run the full gamut from wonderful to cranky old man

      Would love to see that exchange on YouTube though.

    33. Baudrillard Says:

      ” I overheard a police officer asking another officer when I approached the desk as why gaijin live in Japan.”

      I would have loved to have heard the reply.

      Was it perhaps, “So desu ne. I do not know either as we J Police were taught that Gaijin have no rights.”

    34. Joe Says:

      This is getting repetitive, but I’d like one more go.

      1) I didn’t for one moment suggest that the lack of grammar in the officer’s statement was a problem. I said exactly the opposite:

      ” He couldn’t have said “Gaijin namakemono,” it’s both ungrammatical (not that your average Joe cares much about grammar), and completely unnatural to put two nouns together like that in Japanese without a copula, even if you’re talking to yourself.”

      i.e. I know that people talk ungrammatically all the time, it’s the unnaturalness of the phrase that’s at issue here. Particles are dropped all the time, as is the copula, but not in this case.

      2) Re. Japanese ability. Well, I can’t prove anything here, except that my life has been conducted almost entirely in Japanese for the past fifteen years or so. Choose not to believe that if you so wish. I would say that my ability’s enough to spot the problem with “gaijin namakemono”; it jars automatically, just as a sentence like “My favourite meal is chips and fish” would jar in English.If you can’t hear that, there’s no way to convince you.

      3) I felt bad about this whole thing last night and (this is a bit sad, I know), I actually searched the web for the exact phrase (using quotes) “外人怠け者”. Out of over 400,000 hits where the two words appeared together, there wasn’t a single exact match. I’m not saying that the internet should be the standard by which to judge in a case like this, but surely any phrase that doesn’t appear anywhere must be regarded as decidely odd.

      4) Jim, the only person calling anyone a liar is you. I’ve suggested that you misheard and that you were confused in the heat of the moment, as anyone would be.

    35. Joe Says:

      @ Fight Back

      I’m not looking to “achieve” anything; I don’t have some kind of agenda. I like this site, I respect what Debito’s doing. That doesn’t mean I want to join in some kind of gaijin supremacist hate-fest. When people make factually incorrect or dubious posts, it’s always worth pointing them out. Because if we don’t, there are plenty of folk over at Tepido who will step in to do it for us, and make sure the rest of the world gets to hear about them.

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